Kerry’s Crash Continues

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 13, 2004

The latest daily tracking polls by Scott Rasmussen show that President Bush has moved up six points in the past week to take a three-point lead over Sen. John Kerry. The Bush surge is catalyzed by his negative ads, which castigate the Democrat’s record on taxes and terrorism, and by the Kerry camp’s abysmal failure to answer the charges effectively in paid advertising.

For a while, the Kerry collapse was disguised by the national focus on Richard Clarke’s accusations about Bush’s policies before and after 9/11. The short-term impact of the Clarke hearings was to besmirch the Bush image, but once the headlines faded, the remorseless Bush attacks on Kerry began to take their toll in earnest.

The conventional wisdom has been that the contest between Bush and Kerry will be very close. But the evidence is mounting that it may not be. Consider what Bush has going for him:

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* With gas prices at record heights, Kerry is on the spot because of his advocacy of a higher gas tax. Voters know that the president can’t control oil prices, but they sure know he can raise or lower taxes.

* The recent economic-growth and job-creation data is pulling the rug out from under Kerry inch by inch. A few more months like March, and his entire campaign theme will be made moot.

* More and more voters are becoming convinced that Kerry would raise their taxes. His promises to confine tax hikes to the rich are about as credible as an alcoholic’s pledge only to drink at night. Once they start raising taxes, voters figure, they can’t stop themselves.

* It is evident that Kerry has no effective answer for Bush’s charge that he would undermine homeland security. With the national focus shifting more and more to terrorism and away from the fading recession, Bush’s lead becomes ever more daunting.

* Kerry’s own work habits are subject to question. His ski vacation and elective shoulder surgery put him on the sidelines when he most needed to defend himself against Bush’s attacks.

On the other side of the ledger are the continuing casualties in Iraq. Bush can’t sustain these losses week after week. He dare not go into the election with a daily body count topping each night’s news.

While the news media will cover U.S. and Iraqi deaths with the same sensationalism, American voters care vastly more about the safety of our own troops than the restoration of peace and order in Iraq. Bush needs to get over his nation-building fixation and cut our losses after the transfer of sovereignty.

He should keep our troops on bases and end the patrols into the towns and villages. That task is best handled by the Iraqi police and troops themselves. The U.S. soldiers should be standing by to stop the bad guys from coming back into power. Even if Iraq remains a powder keg with constant bombings and attacks, they will make no political difference in our election unless Americans are killed.

Without the economy to use as a hot button issue to attract voters, the Democratic Party is likely to begin to focus instead in Medicare and Social Security, raising alarms and fears about Bush’s privatization alternatives and attacking the prescription-drug benefit. A nice countermove would be to focus on Kerry’s support for higher taxes on Social Security recipients and the fact that he missed the vote on Bush’s prescription-drug legislation.

The Democrats really have no issues and their candidate is way too far to the left. The hiring of John Sasso, competent as he may be, is indicative. Kerry seems destined to run the worst Democratic campaign since Mike Dukakis, Sasso’s previous employer.

Dick Morris was an adviser to Bill Clinton for 20 years. Look for his book, Off With Their Heads: Traitors,Crooks, and Obstructionists in American Politics, Media and Business. Copyright 2004 Dick Morris, All Rights Reserved. Distributed by Cagle Cartoons, Inc. Call Cari Dawson Bartley at (800) 696 7561 or e-mail: email for Dick Morris is

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